Frack inquiry's final report suffers a delay

EXHAUSTIVE PROCESS: The inquiry into the possible development of shale gas in the NT has been exhaustive and has attracted a lot of controversy.
EXHAUSTIVE PROCESS: The inquiry into the possible development of shale gas in the NT has been exhaustive and has attracted a lot of controversy.

The final report into the possible development of onshore gas in the Northern Territory has been delayed by several weeks.

The inquiry, established by the NT Government, and chaired by Justice Rachel Pepper now expects to release its draft final report in early November, and not late October as hoped.

The inquiry still expects to complete its final report by the end of the year.

Justice Pepper said the role of the inquiry is to report on the risks and issues of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas.

“It is not the inquiry’s role to make a recommendation as to the future of the moratorium in the Northern Territory,” Justice Pepper said.

“Any decision on the retention of the moratorium is the responsibility of the NT Government.”

The closing date for submissions in response to the independent Scientific Inquiry’s Interim Report is tomorrow, October 9.

Justice Pepper said the inquiry has received over 470 submissions.

Since the release of the interim report on July 14, the Inquiry has undertaken an extensive community consultation program.

This included public hearings and community forums in Katherine and around the NT.

”While I had anticipated to release the draft final report by the end of October, due to the extensive nature of the community consultation together with the large volume of submissions, the release date will be early November,” Justice Pepper said.

Justice Pepper said the economic impact assessment of a potential onshore unconventional shale gas industry in the Northern Territory by ACIL Allen Consulting (ACIL Allen) and the social impact assessment being undertaken by Coffey Services Australia Pty Ltd (Coffey) were nearing completion.

“The assessments being conducted by ACIL Allen and Coffey will be uploaded to the Inquiry’s website immediately upon completion,” Justice Rachel Pepper said.

In May 2017, ACIL Allen was engaged through a public tender to complete an economic impact assessment, while in June Coffey was awarded a tender to undertake a social impact assessment.

“I wish to assure members of the public that following the release of the draft final report, further consultation will occur to allow the public to make any further and final submissions they wish to make to the Inquiry,” Justice Pepper said. 

“The next round of consultation will involve further public hearings in Darwin, Tennant Creek, Alice Springs and Katherine and community forums with regional and remote stakeholders”

“These will commence in the second half of November 2017.”

The inquiry has distanced itself from comments allegedly made by Cross Cultural Consulting during a community forum at Elliott earlier in the year, as detailed by ABC News.

The Inquiry engaged Coffey Services Australia Pty Ltd (Coffey) in June to conduct a social impact assessment on its behalf. 

The social impact assessment work was awarded to Coffey on the basis of a public tender. As part of that tender, Coffey engaged CCC to assist it with its on-ground community consultation activities.

“I am shocked by the opinions and comments expressed by the person in the recording, who appears to be leading the community consultation in his capacity as a representative of CCC,” Justice Pepper said.

“The opinions and comments expressed by that person in no way reflect the views of the inquiry.

“The Inquiry rejects them in their entirety. At no time was the Inquiry aware that comments of this nature would be made by CCC."

Justice Pepper said the Inquiry is working with Coffey to urgently address these issues.

“The Inquiry has requested Coffey to undertake an immediate review of the work completed by CCC,” Justice Pepper said.

“When the inquiry receives this review, a decision will then be made on the consultation work completed by CCC from within the Beetaloo Sub-basin.”